“Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.” – GK Chesterton
Today is the feast day of St. Joseph of Cupertino, and while he was not an angel, he did take himself lightly – – and he could fly! People thought he was dumb because he was so simple and always went around with his mouth open. And he never seem to be able to get anything done. Actually, even though he really was clumsy and not all that bright, St. Joseph was very pure and humble. In fact, the reason why he went around with his mouth open and could never get anything done because he would go into ecstasy over thinking about God and finding him in the simplest things. The ecstasies prevented him from finishing what he was doing. He was always teased and maybe it led to his having a temper because it got to him a little bit. But, it seems that he overcame it and took himself lightly. God gave him the gift of levitating, and not just levitating – – but flying up to 30 feet in the air! It was a sign of his humility. Humility lifts you up to the sky, pride keeps you weighed down to the ground. In St. Joseph of Cupertino’s case, he could fly in order to demonstrate that God wishes to draw all men (humanity) to himself. Whenever he would see a holy image or statue high out of reach, he would fly up to it and venerate it by kissing it devoutly.
The Lightheartedness of Loving Mary
St. Joseph’s heart and mind would soar at beholding depictions of the Holy Virgin; and the mere mention of her name could send him into ecstasy. How can you not find joy in contemplating the person of Mary, in marveling at her humility and goodness, and in finding yourself lost in wonder over her Immaculate Conception and Divine Maternity? Such a wondrous human creature never existed until God created Mary, with such love and generosity! I know how the very mention of her name lifts me up with hope – – how true this was for St. Joseph who shared the name with the husband of Mary who loved her so tenderly. It’s no surprise that he would find himself up in the air, oriented towards heaven, magnetically drawn towards Jesus through Mary. She makes it easy and quick to set our minds on the things that are above. She wants us to be with her, she wants us to be with Jesus, now and eternally.
The Blessed Virgin Mary inspires us towards ever new heights of holiness, anchoring us to the port of the heavenly shore. I would think that this was experienced by St. Joseph Cupertino as he was contrasted against the vast blue canopy – – no wonder they couldn’t get him back down, as the color blue, the color for hope, is the color associated with Mary. His vertical surrounding must have made it difficult for him to stop thinking about her!
Discouragement is what keeps us weighed down to the ground; the theological virtue of hope is what causes us to rise up to the clouds – – if not physically then spiritually, just the same. Mary gives us hope in the merciful Savior, she brings us to him and fosters our trust in him. She is heaven’ s bait through whom the Divine Fisherman casts his net into the deep recesses of our soul and swings his catch up to the skies. I find in my own life the Mother of God constantly encourages hope in my heart even though I don’ t have the sensible e feeling of it – – I know that everything will be well because I belong to her with all those around me, and nothing of hers can ever be lost.. As St. Bernard and many others have observed, calling upon Mary is s a surefire way of combating the discouragement from comes from the devil who dreadfully fears Mary. St. Joseph of Cupertino must have struggled with temptations to discouragement because of the way he was treated at times.
Some, even his own brother Franciscans (he had experienced being kicked out for his clumsiness before being accepted into the Conventual Franciscan order) were jealous of him. Many times for some reason or another, he was bounced around from one place to another, and oftentimes the cell, that is, room, to which he was confined was very small. Anyway it seems that he “rose above it” because he was devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
I think that much of of St. Joseph’s humility stemmed from his peaceful and loving acceptance of things he could not change. This habitual surrender to the will of God is something we must learn from the example of Mother Mary and our father St. Joseph. Oftentimes we cling to the ground because we are attached to our own little plans. St. Joseph of Cupertino didn’t fly because he was from the planet Krypton – – because he wasn’t. He flew because of his openness in humility to God’s grace at work in and through him. And God’s grace was definitely at work through him, most notably manifested in visible ways. God’s grace elevated him, intellectually, not just bodily. Joseph of Cupertino was not being very bright, naturally speaking. But whenever he would pray deeply and become lost in ecstasy, he would receive infused knowledge about the things of God (most probably in proportion to his humility, which, of course, was God’s gift). Now that is not to say that God didn’t make use of his natural intelligence as well: There’s a funny account of his passing a test qualifying him for studying for the priesthood – – there was a passage of Scripture that he memorized by heart and the test just happened to require the recitation of that exact passage! He’s a great Saint to pray to right before a test or examination, especially when we feel like a great big dunce.
There is a great movie about St. Joseph of Cupertino from the 1950s called “The Reluctant Saint,” has anyone seen it? The movie is not totally historically accurate processing it really gives you the gist of who he was, especially by highlighting his exemplary humility. There are a few brief shout outs to his devotion to Mary as well.
St. Joseph of Cupertino, pray for us that we may be humble and take ourselves lightly so as to soar up to God in prayer and bring others up with us!